Have you ever tried to sell something online? While building community through online marketplace connections is a wonderful goal, it can often get derailed by scammers. Typically, the goal of these scammers is to defraud you for either money or merchandise, but in some situations, the outcome can be much worse.
In May 2022, police in the Bronx, New York, issued a warning to local residents after a 21-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint by two people pretending to be interested in purchasing a car he had put up for sale on Facebook Marketplace.
While most of us know to be wary of strangers, the vast network of social media makes many of us feel more comfortable, which can lead to a dangerous reduction of inhibitions. It doesn’t take much for us to find ourselves in uncomfortable or even dangerous situations, either physically, financially, or emotionally.
The Most Common Online Marketplace Scams
Fortunately, the more you know about the types of scams you’re likely to see in online marketplaces, the easier it will be to avoid them. While many situations involving online marketplaces have led to real-life violence, others seek to defraud you in more insidious ways.
Let us walk you through the types of scams you may see online and how you can protect your identity, physical safety, and wallet.
It’s incredibly easy to post something for sale on an online marketplace. All you need to do is type the listing and put it online. Buyers should be very wary of listings that only use stock photos or are priced much lower than retail. In most cases, a deal that’s too good to be true is a scam. The buyer is counting on the seller to send either full payment or a deposit, at which point they’ll disappear.
Fake rental property
One scam that’s been frustrating house hunters for decades now is the fake rental property scam. Typically, a ‘landlord’ will post pictures of a house or apartment for rent, accompanied by a price that’s just a little bit lower than the average. From there, they’ll either ask for your personal details or require a deposit to secure a visit. Once they have your details or your money, the listing – along with the scammer – will vanish.
Another common scam perpetrated on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and many other online marketplaces is overpayment. If you’re selling an item, you may be surprised when the buyer sends you more than the agreed-upon price. They’ll often say it was an accident and ask you to transfer the balance back to them.
However, this scam reveals itself when you discover that the payment was either fraudulent or canceled by the buyer. This means that you’ll lose the original balance paid to you, as well as the amount you sent to the scammer.
The Best Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed on Online Marketplaces
While there will always be scammers online, there are many steps you can take to protect your physical and financial safety online. Here are some safety measures we recommend when operating in online marketplaces.
- Use caution when meeting up with someone in person. It goes without saying to never, ever invite someone you met online to your home. It’s best to meet them in a neutral, public place like a coffee shop or shopping mall and bring a friend.
- If someone overpays for an item you’re selling, invite them to file a dispute with their bank. Never send them money back, even if they really put pressure on you. If it was a legitimate mistake, tell them you’ll cooperate once they file a formal refund request.
- Don’t give in to high-pressure situations. If someone makes you feel pressured to buy or sell something, take a step back. This common tactic is used to create a sense of urgency that can easily cloud your judgment.
- Ask for a demonstration of the product you’re purchasing. It’s easy to pretend that something works when you’re meeting the seller quickly in a parking lot. Take the time to plug it in and check it thoroughly to ensure it’s a legitimate product.
- Verify that you’re meeting up with someone real using Dentity. Using an ID verification service like Dentity allows you to send a request and immediately get back information that can verify whether the person you’re dealing with has provided their real identity. This gives peace of mind that can help ensure you’re not getting scammed.
Dentity Provides Additional Security in Online Marketplaces
While Dentity can help offer peace of mind when you’re using an online marketplace, it cannot prevent you from getting into a potentially unsafe situation, even if you know who you’re meeting.
It’s essential to exercise caution when buying and selling online by employing tools like Dentity as well as common-sense measures like meeting in public and bringing a friend along.